NPS Regional Director Blaszak Addresses Stagnant National Park Visitor Numbers

Marcia Blaszak, Alaska Regional Director of the National Park Service, addressed an oversight hearing of the House Resources Committee's National Parks Subcommittee on April 6. The topic was “Visitation Trends in the National Park System”. A panel including leading travel industry representatives also addressed the subcommittee.

To read Ms. Blaszak's statement, the opening statements of Subcommittee Chairman Steve Pearce (R-NM) and Ranking Member Donna Christensen (D-VI), as well as the statements of travel industry panelists including John Schoppmann, Executive Vice President of Forever Resorts, click here.

The following is an excerpt from Ms. Blaszak's remarks:

"National park visitation is sensitive to macro-economic trends. Recent research performed by the University of Wyoming shows that real disposable income and unemployment are significantly associated with visitation. As disposable income rises, national park visitation decreases. As unemployment goes up, visitation declines.

We also know that people’s race and ethnicity may have some relationship to whether or not they visit national parks. National park visitors (and public-land visitors in general) do not reflect the demographic face of America. Researchers noticed this disparity after they started collecting data on it in the early 1960s. A national survey conducted for the park service by Northern Arizona University in 2000 showed that 36 percent of white Americans not of Hispanic origin had visited a national park within the previous two years. For Hispanic Americans, the figure was 27 percent, and for African Americans only 13 percent. It is a particularly compelling concern today because groups that are not traditional park-goers are driving population growth in the U.S. The survey identified several reasons for this difference which include high travel costs, lack of information about parks, and what to do once in them. Numerous focus groups identified additional reasons, such as the feeling that parks can be uncomfortable places to be when most visitors are of another race."